Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Could have been so much better...

Romeo and Juliet

Wales Theatre Company , New Theatre Cardiff , October-17-08
Romeo and Juliet by Wales Theatre Company If ever a production were to strike an unsettled chord then Michael Bogdanov’s new Romeo and Juliet is the one. With their experience and reputation my expectations of this production were high. However, from the onset an air of discontent settled within the restless auditorium of the New Theatre, lifting occasionally but never clearing.

This production has been given its own identity; effectively updated and made suitably accessible to a younger audience. The set was both attractive and effective – the elegant contextual photographs projected onto the backdrop at times providing the visual highlight of some of the more testing scenes. The dominance of a clinical silver staircase, used predominantly for continuity and structure worked well, allowing the production the opportunity to thrive on its own simplicity.

I feel that where this production fell down was on its level of performance. Whilst his undeniable enthusiasm was somewhat charming, the pint-sized Jack Ryder is not a natural Shakespearean performer. He has undoubtedly worked at this role and handled moments of aggression with ease. However, sadly his performance was absent of any poetic quality and emotion, stripping the production of some of its most beautiful moments. There was undoubtedly more tenderness in Sara Lloyd-Gregory’s Juliet, yet I still felt she was lost within her characters shell – trying vigorously to fulfil her own expectations but sadly never reaching her evident potential.

There were moments of comic excellence especially from Russell Gomer as the foolish Mercutio and also Christine Pritchard as the excitable and emotional nurse. However, these brief interludes did not mask the empathetic void which unfortunately dominated this performance. At no point did I feel the true rivalry between the two families; in fact I even struggled to maintain identification of the key family members. This was not helped by the accentual shift of Lord Capulet – in the second act he seemed to adopt a rough northern accent that was either incredibly faint or totally absent from his first act performance.

The final scene – a press conference gathered around the towering golden statues of our lost lovers displayed what I wish there had been more of in this production. It was artistic, imaginative and expressive, capturing many of the elements that had been disappointingly absent throughout the rest of the evening.

The most frustrating thing about this production was that I always felt it could have been much better – the talent and imagination were there, they just never materialised in enough depth to impact on the audience. One critic described this show as ‘amateurish’ – that it was not. This was a talented ensemble, directed by an undoubtedly talented individual, but sadly it left me feeling empty.

Reviewed by: Amy Stackhouse

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